Sunday, 29 December 2013

The 31 Women - re. Barbara Poe Levee and my request yesterday

Following information from Paula Thompson, I now know that only one of the 31 Women is still with us in person.  The remaining member of this select and important group is Gretchen (Schoeninger) Corazzo, who celebrated her 100th birthday two weeks ago.

Sadly, painter and collector Barbara (Reis) Poe Levee has died at the age of 91, in the autumn of 2013.  I will post Barbara Poe Levee's biography to coincide with her birthday, in March 2014.

I'd be pleased to hear from anyone who knew Barbara or can tell me anything about her paintings, as I have never seen any of them. Anyone with information can email me -  or post a comment below. Thank you.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

The 31 Women, the Project So Far - and a request for help.

In 2013 I've posted biographies of 25 out of the 31 Women. These have included luminaries such as Frida Kahlo and Leonora Carrington, the unlikely including Gipsy Rose Lee and the unknown with Gretchen Corazzo and Anne Harvey.

For anyone who has missed the point of the selection, the 31 Women all exhibited their work seventy years ago, at an exhibition in January 1943 at the Art of This Century Gallery in New York. This was the first exhibition dedicated to women artists of the avant-garde. The gallery itself was owned and run by Peggy Guggenheim who, though not an artist herself, was probably the most important one of a group of far-sighted women who collected and promoted modern art during the twentieth century. These included Betty Parsons, Louise Dryer and Aline Meyer Liebman, who was also one of the 31 Women.

The most popular of my posts seem to be the following:-
1 Gypsy Rose Lee - She was the first I posted but still... not all the interest is in her artworks!
2 Leonora Carrington - I'm trying to promote Leonora as a British artist, she's woefully under-represented in the UK. 
3 Sonja Sekula - Surprisingly popular considering Sonja's obscurity, although her work is lovely.
4 Xenia Cage - Not so surprised about Xenia, considering the interest in John Cage.
5 Frida Kahlo - I'm just surprised that dear Frida is only number five!

For 2014
My research is almost complete, so there are only another six artists whose biographies will appear here, hopefully to coincide with their birthdays.

Look out for Esphyr Slobodkina, Leonor Fini, Maria Elena Vieira da Silva, Louise Nevelson, Aline Meyer Liebman and Barbara Poe Levee (formerly Barbara Reis).

I hope soon to turn this research into an actual book.

Help needed.
My request for help surrounds the last two artists, Aline Meyer Liebman and Barbara Poe Levee. I don't know either of their birthdays, just that they were born in 1879 and 1922 respectively. Also in the case of Barbara Poe Levee I have no information about her work as an artist or her exhibitions between 1945 and  2002.
Any information would be very welcome.

And a Very Happy 2014 to everyone!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Gretchen Corazzo celebrates her Centenary on 18 December 2013 - She is number twenty-five of the 31 Women

Artist and sculptor Gretchen Schoeninger Corazzo celebrates her one-hundredth birthday on 18 December 2013. Her century is being celebrated by a retrospective exhibition at the Box Factory for the Arts on Broad Street, St. Joseph, Michigan. Gretchen is an American sculptor, photographer, illustrator, collage and assemblage artist, printmaker and a musician.  She is another of those multi-talented women who have been active artists all their lives, yet have somehow managed to evade both fame and notoriety. In her nineties she stopped making the large concrete sculptures which formed her output for some time. As a centenarian she still works daily on a smaller scale with collages.
Born on 18 December 1913 in Ravinia, Illinois, Gretchen’s life has spanned the entirety of twentieth century innovations in American art. She has created sculptures in the same vein as Louise Nevelson and Esphyr Slobodkina, working with found objects to form abstract constructions, as well as working in cement, clay and plaster.  Although today she is unknown outside her home state, she was involved with the wider avant-garde from an early stage.  Her husband, painter and architect Alexander Corazzo is hardly any better known than Gretchen so her obscurity cannot be blamed on him, unlike for example her friend Xenia Cage, who was conveniently ignored in the creation of the John Cage myth.

Gretchen’s talents were encouraged throughout her childhood. Her mother, Hester B. Hall was a schoolteacher and her father Joseph Schoeninger was an entrepreneur specialising in printing processes. Her parents wanted an unrestrictive education for their offspring and were quite prepared to move to a new area to put the children into a more progressive school, the family relocated several times. In 1922 Gretcehen and her siblings boarded at the Heidehoff Schule near Stuttgart in Southern Germany, whilst their father negotiated the bringing of the advanced rotogravure printing process from Germany to the States. This was a shrewd investment. The rotogravure process would become widely used in the newspaper and publishing industry and is still used today, printing everything from glossy magazines to vinyl floor coverings.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Anne Harvey, the 31 Women Number twenty-four, Her Birthday is in November

Anne Harvey was a painter and illustrator, her birthday is in November but I don’t know which day, only that she was born in 1916 and died only 51 years later, in 1967. Marcel Duchamp was a fan, he wanted to arrange a posthumous exhibition of her work, but he too died before this was possible. She is so little known that until now I was unable to find a photograph of her, but this one is from the Met Museum archives. This article on Anne Harvey replaces my earlier, incomplete version.

Anne Harvey, photo by Brancusi
Anne Harvey would be regarded as a European artist, except for the fact that she was born in Chicago in November 1916. She is also not so much a forgotten artist as an artist who was never really known, even though her work was admired by some of the masters of twentieth century art, including Henri Matisse and sculptor Constantin Brancusi. She painted a remarkable portrait of Brancusi when she was only eighteen and this is the only work of hers to have received much acknowledgement outside her immediate circle. Even though you might think you’ve heard of an artist named Anne Harvey, it’s probably not this Anne Harvey, which is a shame. As a painter she was both talented and original.

 Anne was born into a wealthy, educated and unconventional family, she and her brother Jason were sent to progressive schools in the USA. Harry Harvey, their father was an advertising executive and author. He wrote a biography of Debussy, which was published in 1948. Their mother, Dorothy Dudley Harvey was a writer and poet and one of the four famous Dudley sisters, she published a biography of American novelist Theodore Dreisner in 1932.   

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Jacqueline Lamba: the 31 Women number twenty-three - her Birthday is 17 November

Jaqueline Lamba (Breton) born Paris 1910 -died 1993 -  French painter

Surrealist godfather Andre Breton became obsessed with Jacqueline Lamba on their first meeting. She was his muse and he wrote obsessively about her in L’Amour Fou – a surrealist record of their momentous first meeting on 29 May 1934. Jacqueline, an orphan, was apparently earning her living as a swimmer in an aquatic burlesque show – however she was no guttersnipe. She spent her early childhood in Egypt where her father, Jose Lamba was an agricultural engineer.  He died in a car accident when Jacqueline was only four and his wife, Jane Pinon returned to France with her daughters Huguette and Jacqueline.

Jacqueline Lamba
Jacqueline was sent to boarding schools in Neuilly and then Versailles, though times were not always easy as her mother died of TB. She studied at l’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, with photographer Dora Maar, who remained a close friend.  Maar later photographed Lamba, Breton and other Surrealists whilst holidaying with Picasso in the mid 30’s. Jacqueline moved up to the Beaux-Arts where her tutor was cubist André Lhote.

While Breton always maintained that his first meeting with Jacqueline Lamba was chance/fate, this was typical of how he wished to see the world. Lamba was already a politicised woman, rebellious against conventional social and political attitudes. Attracted by Breton’s writing, she was interested in both his politics and his art. The dice of chance leading to their meeting was heavily weighted in her favour by her own prior knowledge, assisted by friends. Thus she was subverting Breton’s romantic ideal of the fateful chance encounter, while he was oblivious to any other interpretation of the event.

Jacqueline became involved in the surrealist dream in which her creativity became immersed, almost drowned, for a number of years. She experimented with automatism and began painting surreal dream-scapes.  Her work appeared in surrealist exhibitions between 1934 and 1948, but like the other women associated with surrealism, her art was not taken very seriously. However she created imaginative and very sophisticated surrealist drawings, collages and objects which were greeted with enthusiasm by the men and exhibited alongside their work.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

'Wild Abandon' by Joe Dunthorne - book review

The main characters in Joe Dunthorne's second novel are teenager Kate and her 11 year old brother Albert. Their father, Don is the patriarch of the commune at Blaen-y-Llyn and thinks it's all about him. He's wrong of course, but patriarchs generally are.

Kate drops out of the commune to go to school, her sights set on Cambridge, via a sojourn in the suburbs with a boyfriend who ultimately proves boring. Albert is furious at his sister's desertion and prepares for the coming apocalypse, which nobody else believes in, not even his faithful little acolyte Isaac. Freya, their mother, decides to leave Don and goes to live alone in the woods, in a geodesic dome abandoned by Patrick. 

Patrick and Janet are the only other founder members of the commune still there... they are not a couple... The newer arrivals, known as the wwoofers, are few in number; they come and go and are generally lacking commitment, never mind finance. Patrick is the oldest communard, but he drops out too after an excess of hand-crafted substances. This probably seals the commune's fate as, unbeknown to everyone except Don, Patrick has been funding Blaen-y-Llyn for years.

I've tried writing about people living in a commune and they always turn out more dysfunctional than I expected. I can't say that Joe Dunthorne had the same problem with this book, because his cast in Wild Abandon are obviously intended to be dysfunctional from the start. I just wonder if anyone has ever written a novel about a functional commune.

Anyway, Wild Abandon is full of funny set pieces and apt descriptions. It's engagingly written and a very entertaining read. I absolutely loved the (maybe) apocalyptic and certainly orgiastic ending. This would make a great film, provided no Americans get their hands on it - they don't know where Wales is.


Monday, 4 November 2013

Milena Pavlović Barili; the 31 Women number twenty-two - her Birthday is 5 November

Yugoslavian painter, poet, graphic artist, theatre designer, born in Pozarevac,05/11/1909 - died in New York, 03/06/1945.

Milena in Spanish costume
Milena Pavlović Barili was one of the European artists who moved to the USA during the Second World War. She was talented, imaginative and committed to her painting, sometimes to the point of obsession. Despite constant travelling, she produced 400 known works in a career of only eighteen years, while also working as a designer for Vogue, Harpers and other up market magazines. Although her exhibited work was often well received, she never became popular in her lifetime and her associations within the art community are not well documented.  However she can’t be accurately described as a forgotten artist; she is remembered and well loved in her home country, Serbia, where a museum is dedicated to her art.

Milena was an only child born in Pozarevac, Yugoslavia. She was an aristocrat of sorts, a distant cousin of King Peter II of Yugoslavia though her parents were not hugely wealthy. She actually spent part of her childhood in the royal palace in Belgrade, where her mother Danica worked.  Danica was a pianist and music teacher, her Italian husband, Milena's father was composer Bruno Barili, from Parma in Italy. Milena's parents seldom lived together. Bruno was an influential businessman and intellectual, a music critic, poet and founder of the literary journal, La Ronda. Music played a major part in Milena’s life, her friends were musicians and Milena herself received some training as a singer, though she never sang professionally.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

New picture!

I decided the old header picture was rather bleak, so I've changed it - has anybody noticed..?
Thought not. Woof!

Monday, 28 October 2013

'The Book of Illusions' by Paul Auster - review

I've just finished reading this beautiful, sorrowful book, for the second time.

The Book of Illusions is the story of academic David Zimmer and his desperate interest in the work of Hugo Mann, an obscure silent movie actor. Zimmer's interest is desperate because researching and writing a book about Mann is a distraction from the tragedy which has overtaken his own life.

The story of Hector Mann, his last iconic movies and his mysterious disappearance is told with a wonderfully engaging attention to detail and feels for much of the 321 pages to be the main thrust of the book, with David Zimmer's own story relegated to a thin thread. This is delicately done and must be deliberate, from a writer of Auster's ability. It works beautifully, depicting Zimmer's need to escape from his depression into the mystery of another.

Although the book ends with more tragedy, we are left with the feeling that Zimmer has gained a little hope, which will enable him to go on.


I won't go into more detail, I wouldn't do the book justice. I'll just say it's not heavy going either despite the plunge into fictional research. Although the story is sorrowful it has also given me hope, because I can see that my creativity works in something of the same way as Auster's.

I too use this technique, as described by one of my tutors at the University of Leeds. To create drama and empathy in your writing, take your main character and chase them up a proverbial tree, then throw stones at them. I then go one step further and chop the tree down.

It certainly works for Paul Auster in The Book of Illusions.  I just urge people to read this compulsive book.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Meret Oppenheim; the 31 Women number twenty-one. Her birthday is 6 October.

Swiss artist, 1913 – 1985 painter, sculptor, designer, poet

Meret Oppenheim in a still from
There is a famous work of Surrealist art called Le Déjeuner en Fourrure (Dinner in Fur), which consists of a teacup, saucer and spoon covered with gazelle fur. This is Swiss artist Méret Oppenheim's most widely known work and has been an icon of high Surrealism since 1936, to the constant dismay of its creator who regarded it as of minor importance. This creation pursued her all her life, although she later disassociated herself from Surrealism.

Dejuner en Fourrure was loaned to Peggy Guggenheim for the Exhibition of 31 Women in 1943.  Méret Oppenheim had no say in the matter, she was on the other side of the Atlantic, in her native Switzerland. She never agreed to participate in any exclusively female exhibition and even refused to condone the reproduction of her work in books about women artists. This wasn't because she felt that the battle for women's liberation was unnecessary. Méret was a feminist and the granddaughter of suffragette Lisa Wenger-Rutz, who'd been active in the Swiss League for Women's Rights and encouraged radical thinking in her daughters and granddaughters.

Méret said in a letter to her sister Kristen, when she was asked to take part in an all woman exhibition in Los Angeles, that she was concerned about the possible ghettoisation of art by women. She strongly believed that the creation of art had nothing to do with one's gender, but was a product of both the male and female sides of the artist's psyche.

Meret Oppenheim’s oeuvre is immensely varied, due to her penchant for experimentation. Although when pressed she called herself a painter, she seldom treated painting as any more important than other creative techniques. She absolutely considered art to be an act of creation with a naturally inspired spiritual element, not merely self expression. Her drawings are exceptionally confident, free and expressive. She crossed the boundaries between styles and genres, between fine art and design and between two and three dimensions, to create a body of work that might be abstract, surreal, symbolist, conceptual and/or expressionist, defying easy classification with confidence and élan.

Meret Elisabeth Oppenheim was born on 6 October 1913 in Charlottenberg, Berlin. Her father Erich Alphons Oppenheim was a German doctor, but in 1914 he was called up into the German Army. For safety, her Swiss mother Eva Wenger moved with her children back to her own parents’ home in Switzerland.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

For National Poetry Day - Thursday 3 September 2013... this year's topic/theme is water

The Road to Omalos

Take the road to Omalos and you may find

a wild herb valley where peacocks call

and terraced paths run with orange trees

down to a still lake where strong brown geese,

laud, ridge-toothed over a wild green pool

and the air is ablaze with the hum of bees.

The 31 Women Project

Circumstances have meant I've slowed down with my postings of these biographies. Five in August was a lot to complete anyhow! There are more to come, I haven't given up. 

I acknowledge I have missed out some important artists. They will appear next year on their birthdays so, amongst others, you can look forward to the glorious Leonor Fini and the redoubtable Louise Nevelson

Nevelson was incidentally the first of the 31 Women whom I heard of, when I was studying the foundation course at Maidstone College of Art in the year dot. I am so much in awe of her powerful creativity and determination that, while the research is un-troubling, I've found her biography very hard to write, but it will happen.

In the mean time, the wonderful Meret Oppenheim will be along in a couple of days and there will, hopefully, be another three before the end of this year.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Stretching it by Mandy Sutter

When a novel which begins with two strangers meeting on Huddersfield railway station does not immediately descend into another grim, Northern cliché, it’s quite a relief. When it goes on to demonstrate that people living in Yorkshire have actual careers and mobile phones, not just troubled lives on’t moor or down’t mill, it’s a positive joy.
Stretching it

Stretching It does just that and more. It’s a witty, well written tale of thirty-something Jenny, whose problems are not all of her own making, but not taking charge of them is all her fault. Jenny’s relationship with her impossible mother is tender but exasperating. Her love life has become permanently on hold and her career is under the scrutiny of a new boss who has anger management issues.

Jenny decides to take charge, but then  her life becomes somehow even more complicated, when she tries lonely-hearts dating, her boss gives her a big chance and her mother takes a lover. Jenny is a great character, her tribulations make you laugh and wince at the same time. I read the book in one sitting, finishing at two in the morning. It was worth the loss of sleep.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Xenia Cage; the 31 Women number 20, her birthday is 28 August

Xenia Cage - 28 August 1913 Juneau, Alaska – d .1995 New York.

Xenia Andreyevna Kashevaroff Cage is not an forgotten artist, she is an unknown artist. She had a brief window of recognition from 1943 to 1945, though she was highly creative throughout her lifetime; she was a painter, sculptor, musician, designer, book binder, craft worker and conservator. She is one of those talented and versatile women who are routinely ignored, their careers over-shadowed by famous male partners. In Xenia’s case this was composer and writer John Cage, who was as revolutionary in the field of modern music as Marcel Duchamp had been in modern art. Xenia’s contribution in both fields has vanished during the creation of the John Cage mythology.

Xenia Cage, photograph
courtesy of Jennifer Page
So complete was this disappearance, even during Xenia’s lifetime, that Whitney Chadwick, academic champion of women in modern art in her 1985 book Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement mentioned John Cage but seemed unaware of Xenia. Chadwick was not alone. Cage scholars continue to treat the marriage as insignificant, yet Xenia collaborated with Cage for more than ten years, even after their divorce and he dedicated several pieces of music to her.

John and Xenia were both active participants in a radical cultural scene in the USA during the 1930’s and 1940’s, but Xenia’s participation in the world of modern music is still largely un-researched and the only significant acknowledgement of her contribution to modern art came in 2005.  

The full extent of Xenia Kashevaroff Cage’s career as a visual artist remains obscure, her own art works have proved very hard to trace. She is in New York's  Metropolitan Museum of Art, but only as the subject in photographs by Edward Weston.  One small painting by Xenia is in a public collection in her home state Alaska, any other works which survive are either in private hands or possibly attributed to someone else as, like many among the 31 Women, Xenia often collaborated with others. In her case these included artists Wolfgang Paalen, Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell, dancers and choreographers Jean Erdman and Merce Cunningham, as well as John Cage and other musicians.

Xenia Cage was described by Penelope Rosemont as being on the ‘cutting edge of surrealism in sculpture’. There is no record of what became of the abstract mobile that Xenia showed at the Exhibition of 31 Women, it was an elegant, fragile thing made from balsa wood and rice paper strung on slender wires. The first recorded public view of one of her mobiles was on 14 May 1941, when the Cage Percussion Players performed in San Francisco. Xenia decorated the performance space with a large balsa wood and rice paper mobile beneath which the musicians, including Xenia herself, performed - the movement and shadows cast by the mobile were an intrinsic part of the show. It's probable that Xenia was creating mobiles before this time, but none are known to have survived, even photographs are scarce.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Dorothea Tanning; the 31 Women number nineteen, her birthday is 25 August.

Artist and poet Dorothea Tanning is one of those amongst the 31 Women who can't accurately be described as a forgotten artist. A New York Times review in 1995 described her as, ...A painter who has become known in this country for not being better known.*  Her surrealist work was first discovered in New York in the 1940's, though she had her first exhibition in 1934, in New Orleans. However she wasn't more widely known at that stage.

Dorothea Tanning on

She developed something of an international presence in the 1950's after she moved to France, where she lived and exhibited widely and was accepted as a European surrealist, though in the shadow of her husband, Max Ernst. She returned to the US in 1980 and was almost seen as a European import, having to re-establish herself. Though her art began to move on from straight surrealism during the 1950's, it was her imaginative surrealist works which made her name and which she is best known for. She has been accepted as an important American artist and today her work can be seen in thirty-five public collections throughout the USA as well as nine more in Europe.

Dorothea Tanning discovered the route into her own creativity via an exhibition of Surrealist art. In 1936 she had just moved to New York, with an ambition to be a successful painter, but was forced to earn her living as a waitress and catalogue illustrator. She was only vaguely aware of Surrealism before she visited Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, Alfred Barr’s momentous show at the new Museum of Modern Art. The work that the 26 year old painter saw there was a revelation to her, for the first time she found something matching her own visions. She had drawn and painted from a very young age and as a child created a surrealist image without any prior knowledge, when she painted a nude with leaves for hair, to the horror of her Lutheran parents. Whether they were more horrified by the leaves or the nudity is not entirely clear.

She was one of three daughters from a Swedish immigrant family, living in the rural county of Galesburg, Illinois. The family called her Dottie. Despite their religious outlook which meant dancing was disapproved of, her father took her to see cowboy movies. Dorothea yearned after actor Lord Churlton, the villain of the Westerns, rather than the hero, Tom Mix. She said later, I have been very perverse over a very long period and I don’t suppose I’ll be anything else. * As a teenager her perversity also took the form of an ambition to live in Paris and be an artist. Her early career was deliberately conceived as a step by step journey towards this end, though she would not actually live and work in Paris until she was forty years old.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Pegeen Vail, the 31 Women number 18, Her birthday is 18 August

Pegeen Vail       18 August 1925 - 1967  
American painter 
Jezebel Margaret (Pegeen) Vail was born in Switzerland, the daughter of Peggy Guggenheim and her first husband, American artist and international bon viveur, Lawrence Vail.  Pegeen painted from early childhood and was encouraged by both parents, thought they agreed about little else. Pegeen is an artist who, although her work is exhibited as part of the Peggy Guggenheim collection in Venice, is ignored in serious reviews of art history and the reverse snobbery rife in this field is to blame. Those subscribing to the Clement Greenberg philosophy of art were unlikely to be interested in an artist not only born with a silver spoon, but also tirelessly pushed and promoted by her wealthy mother.

This is one of Pegeen’s tragedies, her work is only ever mentioned in relation to Peggy Guggenheim, although she tried all her adult life to break the ties that held her to her mother’s fame, fortune and personality, with only partial success.  On first viewing, her paintings appear cheerful, colourful, decorative and innocent. Their naiveté hides a darker, frequently troubled life which those who knew her are able to read as an undercurrent in her work, though this is not always especially visible to outsiders. Her doll like depictions of women, usually bare-breasted and some as self-portraits, could be indications of the powerlessness she felt about aspects of her life.

The painting of Pegeen's shown at the 1943 Exhibition of 31 Women, Joie De Vivre, although painted when Pegeen was only eighteen, was not her first exhibited work.  In 1938 her drawings had been shown at an exhibition of children’s art at her mother’s Guggenheim Jeune gallery in London.  This copied an idea from the French Surrealists, who had a fascination with the ‘innocent’ art of childhood.  Pegeen was in good company, work by a very young Lucien Freud was also included in the show.  Buyers included English surrealist Roland Penrose and Belgian surrealist E.L.T. Mesens and all Pegeen Vail’s pictures were sold, at least according to her mother.

Pegeen’s parents had first met when Peggy Guggenheim (then only 21) was, in deliberate defiance of her own mother, working at Sunwise Turn, an avant-garde bookshop in New York. They married in 1922, despite Florette Guggenheim’s disapproval, and migrated to Europe.  They moved around constantly, stopping in London for the birth of Sindbad, their son and were in a hotel beside Lake Geneva for Pegeen’s birth on 18 Aug 1925.  When not in school, Pegeen and her brother were dispatched to and fro at their parent’s convenience.  Peggy and Lawrence separated in 1929 and divorced two years later, Pegeen was officially in the custody of her mother, Sindbad of his father, but it was not always that straight-forward.
Pegeen spend much of her childhood with her father and his second wife, author, journalist and activist Kay Boyle, who was Pegeen’s stepmother until 1943 and provided her with three half-sisters. Her other companions in childhood included Debbie Garman, daughter of writer and publisher Douglas Garman and Barbara Reis, daughter of Peggy’s friends Bernard and Rebecca Reis; Bernard Reis was also Peggy’s controversial accountant and financial adviser. Barbara also became an artist.

In spite of moving around so much, Swiss born Pegeen did manage to gain an education, she went to a number of schools in France, beginning at a small bi-lingual school in Neuilly, France run by Peggy’s friend, writer Marie Jolas, whose daughter Betsy was a classmate and friend.  Whilst Pegeen became a painter, Betsy Jolas would grow up to be an influential composer.  The Jolas family were very much involved in the progressive literary world in 1930’s France, with Betsy’s father Eugene helping to edit the important magazine ‘transition’.  

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Irene Rice Pereira, the 31 Women number 17; Her birthday is 15 August.

Irene Rice Pereira (1902-1971) American artist, author, lecturer, poet, philosopher
I. Rice Pereira was a highly intellectual artist, who used the initial rather than her first name in an attempt to avoid the fact of her gender clouding the minds of those viewing her work. Her mid 1930’s social realist paintings and her later linear, textured and mysterious abstract paintings were not obviously gendered, but she felt that removing the issue of gender from the arena gave her work a better chance of being viewed objectively.  However she was an established artist by the end of the 1930’s so secrecy was out of the question, she was successful until the 1950s era of macho Abstract Expressionism, when her gender caught up with her. Like other women artists she became side-lined, but she went further to actively speak out against the abstract expressionist movement, consequently she was derided and almost written out of art history.
I Rice Pereira in 1938, when she
was one of the WPA artists chose
 for the 1939 World's Fair.
Photograph by Cyril Mipaas.

The issue of her age was another matter; she took off five years and was included in both of Peggy Guggenheim’s Spring Salons for Young Artists in 1943 and 1944 when she was already above the age limit of forty. Guggenheim’s records list her as being only 36 at the time of the 1944 spring show.

Actually born 15 August 1902 in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Irene Rice was the eldest of 4; she had 2 sisters, Juanita & Dorothy, both artists and a brother James, who became an accountant. They were a creative family, enthusiasts for literature & music and one of her uncles was a sculptor. Their mother, Hilda Vanderbilt Rice was an amateur painter who encouraged  her artistic daughters.

Dorothy Rice studied at the Art Students League, whilst the youngest sister, Juanita, studied under Hans Hoffman. She would become known as a painter under her married name of Juanita Guccione  Marbrook.  Irene herself was an artistic and highly literate child. She had an early interest in the occult and the American transcendental poets and she read Aristotle & Plato when she was twelve. This led to her deep creative engagement with the works  of Jung. She continued to read and study throughout her life, with particular interest in transcendental philosophy.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Hedda Sterne; The 31 Women number sixteen. Her birthday is 4th August

Hedda Sterne was not an unknown woman artist, neither is she an entirely forgotten artist, though those who do remember her may be surprised to learn that she celebrated her centenary in 2010, passing away the following year. Those who have never heard of Hedda Sterne have only themselves to blame. She was first recognised by the Surrealists in Paris in the 1930’s, exhibited with them in the 40’s and was then associated with the New York School, when she was the only woman artist in the famous 1951 Life Magazine photograph, The Irascibles, by Nina Leen. They had all signed a letter of protest at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s attitude to contemporary American artists.

Hedda Sterne in 1977
That image has unfortunately dogged her ever since, tying her name to one moment in time, when she had a career spanning sixty plus years; Hedda Sterne had more than forty one-woman exhibitions and participated in many more group shows during her life. Her work was first seen widely in the 1940’s at Peggy Guggenheim’s Gallery, Art of This Century, appearing in four shows during the gallery’s first two years, though Guggenheim couldn’t claim to have given Sterne her first solo exhibition. This was down to Betty Parsons, who took over when Guggenheim left New York in 1947, however Parsons had actually staged Sterne’s first one woman show in 1943, while she was responsible for exhibitions at the Wakefield Gallery.

Parsons was also responsible for confusion about Hedda Sterne’s age, when she included Sterne in a group of young artists publicised in Life Magazine in March 24th 1950.  Sterne was already thirty-nine so six years were taken off her age, making her supposed birth-date 1916 - many later records use this erroneous date.
Hedwig Lindenberg was born on 4th August 1910 in Bucharest, Romania. Her parents were Eugene Wexler and Simon Lindenberg and she had an older brother, Edouard, who became a musician. The family were cultured and literate, Eugene wrote poetry and Simon was a language teacher. Hedda was tutored at home by her father and also began art lessons early, copying drawings from books on Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Titian when she was seven and having private drawing lessons from Romanian sculptor Friederic Storck before she was ten. Surrealist artist Victor Brauner was a family friend. Her father died when she was ten and her mother re-married, after which Hedda was sent to school in Bucharest.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Problems with blogger

I've been trying to update several posts and having trouble with blogger - will be back soon!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

the Dada Baroness, Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven; the 31 Women number fifteen - her birthday is 12 July

By the time penniless Mrs Elsa Grove, thirty-eight, arrived in New York City in 1912, she had already had two creative husbands, numerous artistic lovers and a varied career in every imaginable field of the arts – actress, author, dancer, designer, model, painter, poet - she had done them all and been taken seriously in none. With this experience, a highly unconventional imagination and a confrontational spirit, Elsa’s life contained all the ingredients for a creative explosion. It took one more failed marriage, to the exiled and penniless Baron Leopold Friedrich von Freytag-Loringhoven, who fled after less than a year, to light the fuse.

After that, for sixteen years nothing stopped her, not rejection, incarceration, depression, permanent poverty and occasional homelessness. She became a consummate pilferer, liberating items to use in the creation of her totally individual art, as well as hoarding random objects she found on the street. She began creating Dada objects, poetry and performance at a time when Dada was barely known in Zurich, never mind  New York.
Her found object art, in two and three dimensions, was less intellectualised than Marcel Duchamp’s, though he shared her dedication to irreverence and her scatological sense of humour. Her best known Dada object is God, a twisted, iron plumber’s trap, mounted on a mitre block, which may have been a riposte to Duchamp’s Fountain urinal.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Frida Kahlo; the 31 Women Number fourteen; her birthday is 6 July

1907 – 1954  Mexico

Frida Kahlo has the peculiar privilege of being the only woman artist whose story has been told in an Oscar winning movie. It also seems possible that more has been written about her than about all the other 31 Women put together. This fame is comparatively recent, for much of the twentieth century she was largely unknown. Frida Kahlo participated in several important exhibitions in her curtailed lifetime and was admired by the cognoscenti in Paris and New York, but after her death in 1954 her work was rapidly forgotten outside her home country of Mexico.  
In the twentieth century, most tomes which purported to give an overview of Fine Art mentioned very few women artists and Frida appeared as an aside to her husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, if she appeared her at all. Even books on Surrealism, the movement she was closely associated with, sometimes fail to mention her. Rivera himself admired and encouraged Kahlo’s painting, saying more than once that she was a better painter than him, but neither was in any doubt that Rivera’s work had the renown and brought home the cash.

Frida Kahlo died in 1954 and her name vanished from view outside Mexico. It wasn’t until the late 1970’s, with rising feminist interest in re-discovering women artists, that Kahlo began to be remembered internationally. Today she is probably the best known woman painter of her era and is regarded as the pre-eminent exponent of an explicitly female position in the twentieth century canon of painters. Her paintings epitomise the personal made universal that so differentiates the work of many (though by no means all) of the century’s women artists from their male contemporaries.
She was born in 1907 in Coyoacan, Mexico City, to a Mexican mother and a German immigrant father. Her life story, with her terrible accident as a teenager, her physical suffering and complex love life is well known and so I won’t present a timeline as such here. I will just discuss some of the factors which directly influenced her art. Her parents were the earliest of these.  

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Good writing week!

This has been my best writing week for a very long time!

I completed and sent off a short screenplay about civilian life during WWI, it's based on the diaries of a woman whose brother was a conscientious objector. This is part of the 'Unheard Voices' project being run by Jan Perry in conjunction with the University of Leeds, to commemorate the centenary of the war. If my screenplay is one of those selected, I hope it will be filmed in the autumn.

I wrote and sent off an article about Art Deco in relation to buildings and ships, which will be published in the summer edition of QS Eye magazine.

I extracted from my reams of research two pared-down artists' biographies - Meraud Guevara and Kay Sage - which I published here on this blog.

I had an idea for a new play - it's about a tramp who remembers he was once a musician - and I've written the opening scene, with dialogue and stage directions.

Finally out of the slough of despond - cheers!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Kay Sage, the 31 Women number 13; her Birthday is 25 June.

The career of Kay Sage demonstrates the near impossibility, for any woman painter before the 1970s, of being acknowledged as a significant artist in her own right. This was even though she was part of the Surrealist movement, which was ostensibly enthusiastic about female involvement. Her paintings are true surrealist landscapes, emerging from deep in her psyche, painted with precision and secret desperation. They have been compared with the work of Yves Tanguy or Giorgio de Chirico and are often dismissed as merely derivative, which is totally undeserved. 

Katherine Lynn Sage did not have an obvious beginning for a Surrealist artist. She was born in 1898 on her wealthy father’s family estate in Albany, Connecticut. Her education was disjointed and she developed a dislike of school, having attended eight, art was the one field in which she would accept teaching. Her parents separated when she was small, forcing her to constantly change schools. Her father, Henry Manning Sage, became a senator. Her mother, Anne Wheeler Ward, was very young and rebellious, she was not interested in performing the duties required of a politician’s wife. Katherine accompanied her mother to live mainly in Europe, while her sister stayed with their father.
She returned to the US to attend the Corcoran Art School in Washington when she was 20 and remembered the practical style of the drawing teacher, Miss Critcher. This indicates her attitude to the art classes she would take later. She was enthusiastic to learn all the techniques, academic and technical, and chafed when she could not move on to the next. What she did not yet know was what to paint.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Meraud Guevara, the 31 Women number twelve – her birthday is 24 June

 Born in 1904, Meraud Guevara was a British/Irish painter who made surrealist/magical realist images, portraits, landscapes, collage, still life and abstract compositions on plaster. She was also a writer & poet. Though brought up in England and the possessor of an Irish passport, Meraud Guevara spent almost her entire active career in France.

Meraud Guevara, C1920's

She was an imaginative, technically able painter who uncompromisingly lived the life of an artist, but before 1999 her career was un-examined and she doesn’t appear in published art histories.  A few early newspaper references describe her as a popular heiress who gave memorable dinner parties. This is very misleading, giving the impression that Meraud was a society hostess, when in fact she chose to live on the outer edge of bohemia. A report that she lived in a cave with gypsies is also inaccurate. So much for the press.

 By birth Meraud, whose name is Welsh, was part of a wealthy social elite. She was born Meraud Michael Guinness in London, into the hugely wealthy Guinness family. This society, including her own father, couldn’t comprehend a well-bred women, whose dismissal of correct forms of behaviour was as extreme as Meraud’s became.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Iain (M) Banks RIP

One of my favourite authors has died. He told us he was ill, but his death wasn’t expected quite so soon, he was only 59. He is known for both his hugely imaginative and detailed science fiction and his equally imaginative ‘literary’ fiction. His writing is often boldly experimental, which is I suppose what gives him the ‘literary’ slot, but his books are a far better read than much which gets that dreary soubriquet thrust upon it.

When I saw Iain, the only time I did, he seemed well and was on good form. This was about fifteen months ago and, slightly appropriately considering his black humour and liking for the creepy, in a crypt in Huddersfield. The event was to promote his latest title, Stonemouth. It was a fairly standard ‘author evening, ’ although better than some I’ve been to.  Iain came across as a nice guy, with a love of the absurd and a political commitment to left of centre. He talked entertainingly for forty minutes or so and I wish I could remember what he said. Afterwards he took questions. I asked about female protagonists in his books and we agreed broadly that the musician in Canal Dreams was less rounded as a female character than the juvenile lead in Whit. I duly bought his latest book, he duly signed it and it is on my bookcase along with with most of his other books.

I have a copy of all his ‘literary’ books, many in the beautiful black and white paperback covers they were issued in by Abacus. I have some, though not all of his science fiction. This isn’t because I don’t like sci-fi. I love it and am annoyed that it is still regarded as inferior to other genres. Good novel writing uses the imagination and science fiction uses more imagination than most. Iain M. Banks’ imagination is astonishing not only in its scope but its depth. Most writers wouldn’t let themselves do what he does, even if they knew how! Oh yes, and for those who sniff at the genre, the quality of his writing is second to none.

I’m sure I remember that Iain said somewhere (not in the crypt in Huddersfield), that his first claim to fame was, while studying at the University of Stirling, he spent a summer vacation wearing chainmail and rushing around in the mud beside a loch with a number of other lunatics. The explanation was, the filming of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. As holiday jobs go, that isn’t bad!

I found his very first book, The Wasp Factory, in my local public library in Stony Stratford a year or two after it came out. I took it home because the sleeve notes were intriguing. I read it with increasing astonishment that such an inventive, dark, wicked and un-literary book could get published. I’d been working my way through ‘proper’ fiction by such luminaries as Iris Murdoch, Philip Roth and that other Ian, Mr McEwan, because I felt I should. Mostly they left me not really wanting very much more.

Only Ian McEwan’s first novel, The Cement Garden, had really clicked. The similarities between that and the Wasp Factory are not huge, but they are there in the basic premise; children, isolated and unsupervised, making the best of things. Both are extraordinary books, ultimately I prefer ‘The Wasp Factory,’ for its black humour and bizarre essence.

I will miss the annual appearance of another of Iain’s books. His last, The Quarry, comes out on the 20th June - so next week - and for those like me who can't even wait that long , there's a tiny extract on the Guardian website - .  I’ll buy one asap. I’m just sad that nobody will be able to meet him in a crypt, or anywhere else, and get a signed copy.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Djuna Barnes; the 31 Women number eleven; her birthday is 12 June.

Djuna Barnes in 1921
         Djuna Barnes is one of the most original talents among the 31 Women, although anyone who has heard of her may be slightly surprised to find her named as an artist in an exhibition.  However it would be wrong to regard this as undeserved.  She was a more than able visual artist and known for her pen and ink portraits and newspaper illustrations, though from early on she made a conscious choice to be a writer rather than a visual artist. She often illustrated her own poetry and in the 1930’s she sold an unknown number of oil painted portraits.

She had acute visual awareness, which she usually converted into words, her writing style has been described as painterly. In both art and writing she was an obsessive perfectionist, working and re-working a painting or manuscript for months and years, often having difficulty letting go of any work she regarded as less than perfect.

Although Djuna Barnes frequently illustrated her written work, revealing technically and artistically sophisticated visual skills, she always regarded herself as a writer rather than an artist. There was only one solo exhibition of her artwork, in 1915, where she showed drawings and watercolours, some on anti-war themes. Guido Bruno, gallery owner, described her as the American Beardsley as she created deliberately Beardsley-esque illustrations for newspaper articles and poems. She avoided direct involvement with art movements, although before 1920 she was already friends with artists including Berenice Abbott, Marcel Duchamp, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Lawrence Vail, Mina Loy and Man Ray.

Monday, 3 June 2013

I am not a Yorkshireman

I’m standing in the Northumberland Street

parcel office in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

I’m in a very bored queue, waiting

to collect a packet from a bookshop in

Minnesota, which the postman claims

that he couldn’t fit through my letterbox –

the packet, I mean, not Minnesota.

I am not a Yorkshireman. Neither was I

a Yorkshireman when I joined this bloody queue.

As I’m a woman, this may be obvious to some.


There are some Yorkshiremen in this queue,

they don’t move, much. I hope the Minnesota bookshop

have sent me a book about Louise Nevelson,

who is not a sculptress, but a sculptor.

She is not a Yorkshireman either, though

as a child she emigrated from Russia to New York.

I don’t know if she ever made it to Minnesota.

My parents never emigrated, they never stopped

long enough in one place: Aden, Aldershot,

Berlin, Carthage, Tripolitania, Zanzibar.


This queue hasn’t moved. You do have to

stop moving to become an emigrant, who

comes from somewhere, or an immigrant

who comes to somewhere. However, I am still

not a Yorkshireman, still waiting in this

queue which with a burst of optimism rare,

for Huddersfield, has just moved on two whole steps.

I am still waiting for my book from Minnesota, about a

sculptor who may or may not, have been to Minnesota.

She has certainly never been to Yorkshire.


The queue is in Yorkshire, so is the book, I

live in hope. I’m very interested in Sculpture.


Monday, 27 May 2013

Novel Extract - Tong Street Blues - chapter 38 of 'The Other Elephant' - set in London in the 1970's

He wakes up. He was dreaming of the smell of patchouli.

The day pokes fingers of sunlight between streaks on the grimy window and into his dry eyes. His head is parched from last night’s intoxication, last night’s dream. He feels like he’s slept for three weeks. Only he knows that’s wrong. It’s three weeks since the funeral, but he knows. In that time he’s hardly slept, except for last night, this morning. This morning’s dream. He was dreaming of the taste of apple, dipped in cinnamon sugar.

He sits up. He’s in his own bed. Some remaining inkling of self-preservation had made him leave Alvin’s pad, late in the night and seek his own, safer place. He pulls protesting limbs to the sink and gulps water. It oozes over his wizened tongue and down his throat in slow motion, like a stream of new rain creeping over a parched desert, with the burning ground sucking moisture from beneath as it tries to run. He was dreaming of the wetness of fucking, with her wonderful, fair skin sliding beneath his sweating body, his mind burning with the joy of it.

He remembers yesterday, before the dream, he had climbed to the top of Sandringham flats because he couldn’t bear it any more. Oblivion beckoned and he followed and he toked on Alvin’s pipe, and now he understands. It’s something else, the fulfilling blast of smack, but it’s not real, because this morning the world is still dry. He feels parched from his skin to his core, like brittle, bark-less twigs high on a beach, bleached and sand blasted. Out of the reach of the water.

He was dreaming of Sandy. Now he needs to find her.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Suzy Frelinghuysen; the 31 Women number ten

7 May is Suzy Frelinghuysen’s birthday, she was born in 1911.
Suzy Frelinghuysen was an abstract painter in the USA before the country had any great tradition of abstract art.  She and her husband, George L.K.Morris, were founding members of American Abstract Artists and also of a smaller group which became known as the Park Avenue Cubists. Their influences came from Europe. Morris was also a member of Abstraction-Création-Art Non-Figuratif, a group formed by important European abstractionists including Sophie Taeuber and Jean Arp.  Suzy Frelinghuysen adapted cubist, mixed media and collage styles into her work, with an emphasis on musical and operatic motifs, because Suzy was also a singer.

Suzy Frelinghuysen in her studio
She was born Estelle Condit Frelinghuysen, in New Jersey, into a wealthy and influential family. Her grand-father, Frederick, was secretary of state to President Chester A. Arthur and Suzy was never forced to sacrifice her wealth and social status for the sake of her art. This was held against her by some from the ‘artists must starve in garrets to be considered authentic’ school of thought and the anti-patrician, anti-European attitude of critic Clement Greenberg. His disparaging opinion of her and her fellow American Cubists was expressed in a 1948 essay, “The Decline of Cubism”. Greenberg was about to ‘discover’ abstract expressionism and already felt that cubism was old hat and probably too un-American.

During her childhood, Suzy was privately tutored in art and music.  She also visited Europe a number of times, although she was not particularly aware of European cubism at the time. Originally a realist painter, she said that she really became interested in trying abstraction after her marriage to painter and sculptor, George L.K. Morris. She adopted the cubist style and her paintings were described as bringing humour and elegance to synthetic cubism.

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Secret of Minos

The eternal drone of a thousand hives of bees

orange grove and flower of prickly pear
create honey of pure, golden sweetness
more constant, unquenchable than any machine.
 Ano Vouves the world’s oldest olive tree
gnarls and twists succulent dark secrets
to fruition even after four thousand years.
Slender many coloured cats brood in its belly.

The Cretan countryside is far older than the ruins of Knossos

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Hazel McKinley; the 31 Women, number nine. Her birthday is 13 April.

Hazel McKinley – 1903-1995 American painter, collector and patron 
(also painted as Hazel King-Farlow )

Born on 30th April 1903 in New York, painter Hazel was the youngest of three daughters of Benjamin Guggenheim and Florette Seligman Guggenheim. Their wealth couldn’t buy freedom from virulent anti-Semitism, the Guggenheim sisters endured a restricted and claustrophobic childhood in the small social circle of super-wealthy New York Jewish families. Both Hazel and her sister Peggy rebelled and moved to Europe in the 1920’s. This was the start of an itinerant life for Hazel, during which she married six times. She lived mainly in England and France from the early 20’s to the 1960’s and from the 1930’s she became friends with principal members of the European avant-garde, whose work she purchased. She spent her later years back in the USA.

Hazel had begun to paint in her teens and was no dilettante. She received tuition from Rowland Suddaby, Raymond Coxon and Edna Ginesi and with them became associated with the London Group and the Euston Road School. She first exhibited her work with them during the 1930’s, under her married name Hazel King Farlow. Hazel’s earlier work from this period includes still-life, townscapes and landscapes carefully painted with a slightly plain palette, somewhat reminiscent of the Parisian artist Utrillo. Later in the thirties her paintings brightened, becoming more like those of her teacher, Suddaby. Her first solo exhibition was at the Cooling Galleries in April 1937. She sold or donated some of her work to public art galleries and her pictures are still held in the municipal collections of several English cities including Wakefield, Manchester and Leeds. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Sonja Sekula; the 31 Women number eight, her birthday is 8 April

Sonja Sekula (1918 –1963) Swiss/American abstract expressionist painter & poet
Sonja Sekula had a significant career for eighteen years and it ought to be difficult to call her a forgotten artist. She was prolific and in her short career her work appeared in 18 solo and 36 group exhibitions, with at least another 30 since her death, mainly in Switzerland. Unfortunately she suffered from mental illness and could not maintain a consistent momentum. Betty Parsons, the New York dealer who promoted her work from 1948, dropped her in 1960.

Sonja Sekula in 1945
Sonja was relatively isolated as a person and as an artist, which was due to her mental health issues and also the fact that she was gay, both socially unacceptable at the time. Her work is classified as abstract expressionist and she showed with the New York School artists both at Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery when the movement was in its infancy and for 12 years with Betty Parsons.
Sonja worked in a surrealist manner, using automatic techniques to express her inner world, but although she became friendly with old school surrealists including Andre Breton and Max Ernst, she was really too late for Surrealism, it was past its peak. Visually some of her early work remembers Miro and Klee, but the art world was moving on.
She was young enough to move with it for a while, always maintaining her own creative identity. Her experiments in automatism began in the early 1940’s, steering her in similar directions to other abstract expressionists. She experimented constantly and after each breakdown appeared re-born, with a different stylistic vision, an inconsistency which ultimately alienated the art-buyers. Her final works are gestural, spare and Zen-like.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Leonora Carrington. The 31 Women Project, Number Seven - 6 April is her Birthday

Leonora Carrington was a rebel of the most superior and committed type. Born in England in 1917, into a wealthy family, she would not submit to the restrictive propriety that was expected of upper-middle class girls in those days. She needed to be creative and was totally out of place in a conventional family, the one thing she could share with them was a love of horse riding. The horse became symbolic of her freedom in many of her paintings.  As a child, only her Irish grandmother’s fables allowed her imagination free reign. She drew on the walls until her mother, an amateur painter, gave her paper and paints. She wrote in mirror writing and with either hand, which freaked the nuns out at her convent school. She started smoking aged nine and later, when sent to a posh finishing school, she ran away.

She eventually persuaded her reluctant father to let her study art in London, his price was to force her to ‘come out’ as a debutante in 1935. Leonora was unimpressed at meeting the king and hated the frock she had to wear for her coming out ball. The occasion prompted her to write a story in which her place was taken by a smelly hyena, who had just eaten Leonora’s maid and wore the maid’s face to attend the ball. Everybody was too ‘polite’ to comment, until the hyena ate the face and escaped through an open window.

Leonora studied at Chlesea Art School and then under painter Amedee Ozenfant, who had set up a small school. She said that Ozenfant was the first person to not denigrate her need to be an artist and he taught her rigour in her work. Eventually she ran away to be an artist in Paris and lived with surrealist painter Max Ernst. Beginning her artistic life as a surrealist, she was able to let go of her prolific imagination and with it she ran much further than most of her fellow surrealists, whose work is often mundane by comparison. Some of her early paintings and stories were full of her anger towards her father and the English establishment.

During this period, Leonora formed strong friendships with the other surrealist women including Eileen Agar, Nush Eulard, Leonor Fini, Jacqueline Lamba, Lee Miller, Meret Oppenheim and Dora Maar. These women are now considered a surrealist group in their own right, apart from the men, though in her rebellious fashion Carrington declared, “I was never a Surrealist, I was just with Max”.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

The 31 Women Number six ,Valentine Hugo, March 26 is her birthday

Valentine Hugo  26 March 1897-1968                                 
Valentine Hugo was a French artist, theatre and costume designer, author, illustrator and radio broadcaster. She is still sometimes remembered in France and is not as forgotten elsewhere as some of the other 31 women, though where Valentine is mentioned she is usually tagged on at the end of a list of surrealist artists, all men. She painted portraits of a number of them; her best known painting is probably her 1934 portrait of Picasso, staring with dark intensity from between the horns of a symbolic bull.
She was born Valentine Marie Augustine Gross in the seaside town of Boulogne and died 1968 in Paris. Her mother was Zèlie Dèmelin Gross and father Auguste Gross, who was a musician and as a child Valentine developed a love for music and theatre as well as art. She studied art and her first claim to fame was in 1913 when an exhibition of her ballet drawings adorned the foyer of the of the Champs-Elysèes Theatre on the opening night of The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky’s hugely controversial ballet.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The 31 Women number Five, Eyre de Lanux. March 20 is her birthday.

Eyre de Lanux 1894-1996 - American artist, interior & furniture designer, illustrator, journalist, poet, author & art collector 
Eyre de Lanux by Carl Van Vechten
Eyre de Lanux was an artist who dropped the use of her first name, Elizabeth, in the 1920s, as it was obvious to her at the time that women artists did not get the same recognition as men. It was not so much a feminist gesture as a calculated professional decision, she knew her work would be taken more seriously if it was not generically viewed as ‘women’s work’.

Eyre de Lanux had attended the Art Students League in New York City from 1912-1915. She seemed destined for the comfortable, metropolitan life of a wealthy amateur painter and frequenter of New York salons, but it was wartime and she was a modern woman so she found herself a job, working for the Foreign Press Bureau.  She was in some ways a twentieth century renaissance woman, with diverse talents including writing, illustration and fashion as well as painting and design. She first exhibited her painting and drawing  in 1917, but by the late 1920’s she was better known as a designer of soft furnishings and one-off pieces of high quality modernist furniture, some created  in close collaboration with English designer Evelyn Wyld, with whom she set up a workshop.